Kieran Healy takes a swing at Gregg Easterbrook over at Crooked Timber.
As some folks have noted the blogosphere is a catalyst in changing the balance of power in the wider 'memepool'. As the most broad, deep and visible avatar of the chatting class, the blogosphere with its interesting divisions of labor, has the capacity to take down stars of traditional media, politics and just about every other intellectual activity. Note that this is a function of the entire sphere and not necessarily the work of one or two individuals. I claim that the emergent behavior of the network of political and cultural bloggers are making their impact felt as a whole.
The most notable tool of the blogosphere is the 'fisk', named after outspoken journalist Robert Fisk who was often the target of 'anti-idiotarian' rants and other verbal puncturing. A fisking represents the evolution of the flamewar. It is smarter, it is more detailed and it is more effective.
Since the blogosphere is open and news travels fast through it, people are likely to criticize certain controversial or popular positions from many angles. The blogosphere supports the highly focused interest of partisans of all stripes and once a higher order blogger in its ecosystem latches onto a topic, it quickly brings out almost all angles of opinion.
The fisk represents the level of interactivity and detail orientation I have been hoping to find within computer mediated communications for some time. That the blogosphere demonstrates this proves several things. The first and most important is that collaboration is a necessary part of the effect and impact of blog writing.
Provocation is a necessary component of this activity. Someone of a particularly partisan bent can speak out on a particular issue in such a way that it provokes a reaction. Thus a critical mass of bloggers and their commenters.
One of the features of this emergent behavior involves a kind of indemnification accorded to certain bloggers once they reach a certain status. It can either be an indemnification of link mass or of credibility. Often they are both. Once an issue to be debated reaches one of the indemnified bloggers
Sometimes the issue needs only a brief glossing over or a reference to other bloggers at an indmnified site. This doesn't detract from the value of the indemnified blogger because even these small inputs sustain interest and add fractal detail to the overall debate.